The Return of Blimpish

Iain Dale commented not long ago that British political blogging hadn’t “yet” made the inroads achieved by its counterparts in the United States. That left some of us muttering to ourselves about how that was because British political blogging wasn’t actually terribly good, and that the bloggers who did show any talent were already writers or journalists of one stripe or another.

For me, the whole value of British political blogging was in the refreshing exchanges it made possible. In the early days, 4-6 years ago, there weren’t that many of us around. Samizdata, Harry’s Place, Peter Cuthbertson, Matthew Turner, Ian at England’s Sword, and someone calling himself Junius. People of every political stripe turned up everywhere. What resulted was sometimes a dust-up, but more often refreshing and enlightening exchange.

It was only a matter of time before talkboard denizens wrecked it. The big driver here was the creation of Comment Is Free. I’ve been acquainted with one of the Graun staffers who set up CIF since he was an inquisitive schoolboy, and, without malice, there was never any possibility of their successfully importing the blog format into their online paper.

And Crooked Timber, and the rantbloggers, and then the steady division of the expanding blogosphere into party categories.

So I was delighted to hear that Blimpish had started blogging again. He’d been by far the best of the openly Tory bloggers, a wide reader and deep thinker who could write and who was willing to engage in a proper argument – if you were foolish enough to take him on, of course. It was as pointless as debating with Oliver Kamm; always that effortless outflanking, executed with grace and every proper expression of regret.

Intelligence, fine writing and polite discussion are to modern British political blogging what a wooden racquet is to modern men’s tennis. Blimpish will have to learn to swear, to post his stats, to list-post and obsess about libel. It might take him some time. But until he does, we’ll have someone to show the Americans.

14 Replies to “The Return of Blimpish”

  1. I’d not her of the above so I have now bookmarked it. Rather a lot of pressure then…

    Do you remember British Spin as well?

    I not sure I’d agree about CiF having any impact for two reasons. First, it was only launched in March or April 2006, and things were pretty much as they were now by then, weren’t they? But second, it’s not really a blog in any sense, it’s simply Guardian comment pieces that allow comments, so I’m not sure it can have any impact on ‘blogging’.

    For me it doesn’t work as a blog as it doesn’t have (at least in my experience) any core of bloggers, there are Guardian journalists, other journalists, politicians, bad bloggers, good bloggers, madmen from the left, madmen from the right, but mostly randomly, it’s not like you think ‘Ooh I want to see what X is saying about Y’ and go there and essentially just writing comment pieces.

  2. It was only a few years ago that our Health and Safety lass passed on the instruction that everything must be produced in at least 12 point. What, I enquired, about my weakness for doing maths – my subscripts and superscripts? If they are to be 12 point, how huge must the rest be? Ah, she said, “they” obviously hadn’t thought of that. Anyway, Blimpish, short of maths, 12 point does very well.

  3. I remember those early days, as I used to have regular correspondence with Peter Cuthbertson, Jackie Dinicki, Peter Briffa, and Ian at EoES. I set up my first blog in April 2003, when there were only a dozen or so well-known British political blogs., and all those guys helped me a lot. I remember when Norm Geras and Oliver Kamm first kicked off. You’re right, blogging has changed since then.

    IIRC, Junius was written by Chris Bertram who joined Crooked Timber.

  4. Thanks, BR, but I know the trick and it works only on some sites, not including Blim pish.

  5. Zooming works in Blimpish for me in IE, Firefox and Chrome. Maybe your eyeballs shrink in inverse proportion upon twiddlege?

    Samizdata was the first blog I came across. November 2002 that was. I was a flame war regular on uk.politics.* before then. Didn’t look back.

  6. @Matthew: sorry, your comment vanished into my spam queue for some reason, a place I rarely go.

    British Spin, yes! Didn’t he make a brief comeback at one stage?

    Aside to the damage CIF did to the Guardian itself, I dislike the impact it’s had on the language of blogging. A blog is a site, ladies and gents, not a post. And “blogs” mean multiple sites, not multiple posts. And then all this “Big Blogger” rubbish. It’s tasteless, and lacks class. Grr.

  7. Isn’t British Spin now out in public as Hopi Sen?

    I think my previous sojourn was Oct ’04 to early ’06, with the odd respite. So, 18 months or so, finishing 3 years ago. And memory seems to have done wonderful things for my blogging, giving the rather dauntingly warm words said!

    By the way, find same as BR about zooming – but have not only increased font-size but line-spacing too.

  8. Oh, so he’s.. him, then! I wasn’t aware. Interesting.

    I think you must have been around for that period in the run-up to the last leadership election in the Conservative Party in which the various tory bloggers very nearly generated an interesting debate about the future of their party, before coming out en masse for Davis. How long ago all that seems.

  9. Yes, that’s right James – would’ve been Q3/Q4 of 2005… I think after Cameron won, a few of us lost some oomph. (At the time, that is – I later learned to stop worrying and love Dave.)

  10. I quite like Dave – a Blair de nos jours. Osbourne, on the other hand, I crossed swords with in the long ago, and if Clarke’s appointment and Hague’s promotion are signs that his star is in the descendent, I for one will be mightily relieved.

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